BELLINGHAM (NEWS 1130) — With a population fleeing due to the Canada-U.S. land border pandemic shutdown, business leaders in Point Roberts say they need more financial autonomy to keep the isolated community alive.
While officials on the Canadian side of the border unable to help at this point, the local business community in Point Roberts suggests it might be able to survive if it can guide its own future.
“We’re almost like an orphan here,” said Brian Calder, with the Point Roberts Chamber of Commerce.
“There’s no economic development plan in place. There never has been one. Our planning department is punitive, rather than helpful.”
He added businesses want more autonomy given to them by their own elected officials in Bellingham when it comes to the taxes they pay the state.
“Because they have to come 50 miles, two borders to send any works crews even if they want to repair a road,” Calder said.
“And if we had some control to spend it here, we could probably be at least 50 per cent more efficient,” Calder said.
He added Point Roberts’ plight is also a north-of-the-border concern, with half the population being dual citizens, and 75-percent of the properties there owned by Canadians.
At the same time, he admits the situation remains dire, with the population of Point Roberts now down to around 900 people from about 1,200 earlier this year.
And with families consistently looking for a way out, he concedes more autonomy may still not be enough to recover, noting the community was already at the bottom of a 10-year economic downturn.
The border closure deal with the U.S. is in place until Oct. 21.
The Port of Bellingham has increased ferry services to Point Roberts, noting demand for the existing service during the COVID-19 pandemic.